Garry Thomas Morse on The Politics of Knives

In a lengthy digression concerning whether or not Canada might have a “new novel” or “anti-novel” genre at the current time, Garry Thomas Morse includes some kind words on The Politics of Knives:

None of this takes into account the “klethorka” (almost recognized by Google as “plethora”) of Kafka inspired texts, including part of The Politics of Knives (Coach House Books) – I want to say the best literary “hatchet job” since Clockfire, Jonathan Ball’s previous book of absurdist theatre premises. Technically not a novel, although in Canada everything seems to be a novel nowadays, the title collection of prose poems offers a series of political statements that are slashed with erasure poetics/official document blackouts. Ball also riffs on my favourite Kafka novel in the section “K. Enters the Castle”:

But … control agencies. There are only control agencies.
They sense this camera track silent, pan slow. Stand
back from the pages, their long looping Ks, power
dormant. Not a shadow moves, no paper flits free.

Even as poetry, Ball’s writing reminds me most of the OuLiPo works and revisions of novel form I have been talking about.

I’m not sure if I understand the point regarding OuLiPo, since I have never made use of constraints in my books (only in some uncollected work), although I do mimic the style of constraint-based writing and conceptual writing quite often. However, I’m glad to have the book considered an anti-novel: in the editing process I specifically worked to transform the book from a collection into something of an anti-novel, which resulted in throwing away about half of the book and rebuilding it from the ground up. The Kafka-inspired piece that Morse discusses was one of the new pieces written to transform the book in this way and directly concerns the idea of a novel/ist turning into something new and strange and terrible.

I see the book as having an anti-novel’s scope and a clear (well, maybe not clear!) progression, from the opening invocation of a perverse muse to ending literally in the jaws of (Cerebus at the gates of) Hades. Somewhere between a collection of poetry, a collection of short fiction, an an anti-novel. In fact, I see all of my books thus far to exist in that liminal space (from the science-fiction novel-with-no-characters-or-plot of Ex Machina to the horror-novel aspects of Clockfire, which makes the reader the victim and compels her/him to imagine and suffer nightmarish scenarios). Although it’s a short blurb of a mention, it does cut to the heart of something going on in The Politics of Knives, I think.

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